Owner: Mike Judge
Employees: Two, part-time
Address, phone: 10 S. 25th St., 634-7425
If there’s one word that describes Mike Judge’s approach to business, it’s “mellow.”
Judge opened Moondog Music Shop in Old Colorado City about six months ago, and it’s definitely easy come, easy go.
He opens “around 11” and says that people are welcome to come by, hang out and play instruments during the day.
“Mostly it’s around 11:15,” he said. “I just kind of get here when I get here.”
Judge, a former software engineer, says he was tired of life in “Cube World” and wanted to work for himself. He’s played guitar for years and when another local music shop, Music Exchange, closed last year, he saw his opportunity.
“The 9-to-5 was getting pretty old,” he said. “Music Exchange closed, and there seemed to be a big vacuum left. So I decided the time was right. I wanted something different.”
He found the available space in Old Colorado City, liked the neighborhood and moved in. Since then, business has been doing pretty well, he said. The store’s location, he added, was all about the synchronicity.
Old Colorado City’s first guitar store opened 30 years ago, Judge said, and was located just across the street from Moondog’s location. The store, called Rocka Rolla, opened a second location on Fillmore Street and then both locations sold and were consolidated into one shop downtown. That store became the Music Exchange.
“So, now we’re opened right across the street from where it all started,” he said. “It’s kind of serendipitous.”
He keeps all levels of guitars at his shop — every price point from $100 to $2,500. He even displays a couple of handmade guitars from a local artist, but those are valued around $13,000.
Despite his laidback approach, Judge admits the path to opening his own business had some roadblocks. Getting on manufacturers’ supply and distribution lists was one of them.
“And just juggling everything,” he said. “When it’s yours — your business — you want to do everything yourself. But I’m learning to delegate to the other people who work here. It’s a real time-management thing.”
Judge advertises the business in a couple of local newspapers, and relies on social media to discuss his inventory and equipment.
“The response has been pretty good,” he said. “Every day, I have people come in who say it’s their first time here. I guess when that stops, I know it’s a plateau, and I’ll have to do some more advertising.”
And even though the shop doesn’t officially open until 11 — or 11:15 — people arrive earlier, guitars in hand, needing repairs. Or curious musicians show up looking for a new instrument.
“People are guitar collectors,” he said. “Nobody has just one. Even people who don’t really play will display them on the walls. I have many repeat customers. That’s just the way it is with guitars.”
Moondog Music also offers guitar lessons, and hosts a ukulele workshop monthly. But like much of Judge’s business, there’s no real set date for it.
“It just happens,” he said. “We kind of like it that way. People who want to join in should drop by — or call.”
Judge also repairs instruments, and says his favorite part of the job is working with people.
“Being your own boss — that’s great. You can keep your own hours,” he said. “I like people. I have friends who come and hang out at the store. I’ve made new friends, and I think Old Colorado City is a community, a neighborhood.”
But laid-back doesn’t mean that Judge isn’t ambitious. He says the store isn’t quite big enough for his future plans, and he’s hoping to expand to include new brands and new classes.
“We’re going to keep growing,” he said. “We are really going to be a significant player in the music scene. But we’re going to have to be a little bigger to get there.”
Already, Judge is making a name for himself. He is the only distributor of Blue Ridge guitars in Colorado Springs, and he’s hoping to offer more exclusive guitar brands — at some point.
“There are some chain guitar shops, but they don’t offer what I can,” he said. “They don’t have the one-on-one service, the atmosphere.”
Atmosphere is what brought Judge to Old Colorado City.
“I feel like I’m part of something,” he said, “a part of the neighborhood. I could see guitars online, but I like having the physical presence, being part of something bigger. “